We constantly move within the field of our own responsibilities and needs. There is joy and suffering, challenges and reactions, peace and tensions, and much more. How can we best relate to our daily situations and use the supportive methods that are available to us?
It’s important to recognize that to meditate well it’s extremely helpful to cultivate a mind that is and can remain fairly calm. Of course we will not always be calm, but a calm base is a good ground for our practice.
Being awake and being relaxed
A relaxed wakefulness supports an awake relaxedness. We experience different states that are similar to, but not the same as relaxed wakefulness. For example, we can feel wired, yet also tired and tense. We can also feel awake, but too dull and lazy to actively do what we want to do. Or we can feel sleepy, but too nervous to settle restfully. We can even feel exhausted, but too anxious to relax. Perhaps these examples gives some sense of the balance between wakefulness and relaxation that we seek.
Relaxation helps to calm our physical and mental nervousness so that we can see clearly. Meditation cultivates this clear seeing, enabling us to get to know our mind more deeply. If we proceed in a curious and experimental way, we can learn how to balance these qualities of relaxation and clear seeing in the different situations we find ourselves in.
Natural peace and meditation
There is a hidden gift within our abilities to be aware, mindful, and simply present. Conscious breathing and relaxation; simply being aware of our body; and embracing positive emotions all can activate our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This in turn will calm us naturally. This potential is available to us at all times.
An activated PNS inspires an altered awareness and allows for deeper relaxation. If we consciously take little breaks this natural process can be activated. Quickly we can feel more balanced and our energies can renew. This often allows for a fresher and easier progression through the activities we are about to perform. I feel that this is one of the secrets of life—fully accepting and listening to the need for a break. Just on the other side of being tired and worn out, if we listen and respond properly, a fresh new energy awaits us. But to find it, we have to learn to rest easily and deeply.
Getting used to
Until now most of us have been used to going about our days in an active way and relaxing in a somewhat passive way. Meditation is a kind of active way of relaxing. We limit our focus to a chosen object and relax our mind from its daily business into just observing or just being. In a sense, we are getting to know how things are naturally by playing closer attention mentally. On a deeper bodily level, we are getting used to things as they are, rather than as we might imagine them to be. In fact, the word for meditation in Tibetan, gom, has the meaning of “getting familiar with, getting used to.”
First the mind will act as usual and thoughts and habits might be very active. The more we get used to this different way of engaging our mind, the easier it will be, and the more pliable our mind will become. We will become ever more efficient at finding ways to use our mind to increase our well-being.
Finding short moments to rest and practicing mini meditations can transform our life. We don’t have to wait until we come home or reach yoga class. We can integrate many tiny moments of space, calming, and breathing right here. With a bit of experience we can use any period of walking, waiting time, period of observation, and even emotion in our daily life for practice. In this way we might discover many conscious moments of seeing, eating, breathing, hearing, feeling….and find joy in what’s happening.
It’s also very helpful to experience formal meditation in a safe and calm place, because this allows us to learn precise methods and get to know our own mind and being better and better. We can start with a bit of relaxation and then apply methods of mindfulness and awareness. If we have been practicing taking breaks during the day, then it’s more likely that we can sit down to meditate with a mind that is not too exhausted and nervous, and our mind will be more open and flexible.
We can build upon this already stable base with diverse methods that can lead us deeper into the capacities of our human mind and potential. The field of formal meditation practices is incredibly rich and diverse, so we have a great deal to choose from here. In fact it may sometimes feel confusing that all of these methods—some silent, some loud, some moving, some still, some simple, some amazingly complex—can all be called meditation. But this shows how vast this field is 🙂
Here is a little film about the changes meditation can enable in our mind.
Enjoy your summer!
P.S: You still can sign up for the free 21-day course “Relaxing into Meditation.”